Elevate Difference

Eat Pray Love

Pretty Woman meets Ugly American in Eat Pray Love, a gender reversal romp in which the woman, for a change, instead of the womanizing man, gets to be the one with commitment issues. And while this female free spirit fling junkie cruise around the planet for high carb self-fulfillment is clearly likewise cruising in search of the chick flick demographic, the misguided message seems to be that hedonism is the new feminism.

Julia Roberts is Liz Gilbert, a professional writer and depressed spouse who splits from her marriage on an impulse one day, leaving her husband (Billy Crudup) in a state of shock, because she's revolted by his desire to be a dad. Liz's aversion to dirty diapers, when observed at the home of her publisher, a brand new mom (Viola Davis), sends the faithless female into the arms of a younger guy stage actor (James Franco).

But following this second anxiety attack in the love department having to do with the way said boy toy neatly folds her clean undies in the laundromat, Liz is outta there too, and off on a one-year flight from reality to wherever, as long as it's exotic and boasting assorted metaphorical pleasure palaces. Though how she manages to finance the hefty price tag on such getaways these days remains a mystery, back in the real world the Elizabeth Gilbert bestseller on which this whimsical outing is based, was actually more on the premeditated side, funded by a generous advance received to write the memoir.

Eat Pray Love, with its pampered princess on constant display, is so utterly self-indulgent and in extreme disconnect with its surroundings that the movie ends up much less about exploring new worlds than getting stuck in the protagonist's old petulant, overblown ego. As this modern day Goldilocks samples, and finds lacking, assorted tempting hunks for no discernible reason at all, that Liz eventually settles on a Brazilian Australian in Bali over the alternatives back home because there's presumably more in common, makes no sense at all. Especially because the only bond the lovebirds seem to share in contrast to the other potential mates is sex, sex, sex.

The scenery is fine to look at, but seeing Julia Roberts thoughtlessly rummaging through the male population is another matter. Liz does learn a few things along the way about leading the liberated life, including mastering the art of guilt-free eating and embracing your inner fatty—not exactly a small feat in that sexist fashion police culture back home—while being defiantly anti-motherhood and proud.

But the tendency of Nip/Tuck director Ryan Murphy to depict the locals of color in foreign lands as caricatured buffoonish backdrop while invisibilizing the impoverished millions of India so they don't rain on Liz's parade, neutralizes any high-minded notions on the narrative menu—in addition to her bragging rights around landing reasonable hotel rates because of terrorism in the vicinity. Not to mention the self-centered, shallow screenplay of Jennifer Salt, a disappointing followup to dad Waldo Salt's idealism and persecution as a blacklisted writer during the McCarthy period.

Eat Pray Love: Me, Myself, and I, and a side order of serious jet lag.

Cross-posted at News Blaze

Written by: Prairie Miller, August 13th 2010

Do poor Indian men care about the oppression of poor Indian women?

Not that much.

I do I know?

I am one! (an Indian woman, that is).

spoiled for taking time out and gathering experiences on a schedule she sets for herself? how many movies have males galavanting around the world when that is never questioned?

she continually objects to the imposition of the assumption that she needs a man.

it is one of the few movies that doesn't fail the Bechdel Test. women have intelligent conversations.

she is a stronger character than the portrayal in the book which is more to the ditz.

the movie addresses the assumption that women must dress for men. women are told to forget about the concept of muffin tops. life is too short.

it cops out in the end and assures the viewer that women can have a wild time and travel alone but will still pair off.

we see friend from Italy who is shown with her Italian teacher and presumably their baby. she opposed being told her mind to the last dude in the series but decides she "needs" him and will pair off in another impulsive move to give a fairy tale ending with a bow on top.

she comes from a rich isolated life. we see little of poverty but that would hardly be remarkable in cultural tourism. it's not an expose of dangers of India.

still, for a contemporary production, and for a Julia Roberts thing, it is remarkably meaty.

Two comments have been deleted that were in violation of our comment policy. Abuse will not be tolerated here.

Barbara: Goodness lady. It sounds like you're struggling with something fierce, so I'll try to be sensitive to that in my response to your question "Do you think the impoverished males of India are caring if women are oppressed?!" The pat answer is 'yes'. The complicated one is another question: what does women's oppression and freedom mean to you and what does it mean to impoverished women and men in India? Because judging from what little you have written here, imho, they mean quite different things. So, I'll give you an example, when poor Indian men shut down the country during a strike for better wages and working conditions, or job security, they are not simply advocating for themselves. They are advocating for women as well, and not just indirectly. This is a direct act of caring about women's oppression. Do they frame it in the language of Western feminism? No, of course not. But that doesn't mean it isn't a part of women's liberation.

Another relevant point to be made is that this review wasn't written for Feminist Review. It was cross-posted from News Blaze; therefore, the review was not written with this blog's mission in mind. That said, I do see Miller's review as very much in line w/ my reading of this blog's mission.

Ok, so this movie ignores "other" social problems. This is a feminist review though, so what the heck happened to our caring an iota about the social problem of men oppressing women? No one else cares about it, but isnt that why we have this site, to CARE about it? Do you think the impoverished males of India are caring if women are oppressed?! Get real! It's sounding like, from the review, that the film sends GREAT feminist messages: leave your husband (marriage is a personal and political trap for women, it's free labor for men), men's greatest value to women IS sex, and sex is a highly valuable thing, women owe men NO explanation for leaving as we all know most of them dont deserve our consideration. I mean come on, are you really showing SYMPATHY for men because she "doesnt give a reason for leaving"? That sounds like total victim mentality to me. Men don't deserve any reason, we need to treat them as what they are: people who oppress us. If one of you wants to go find someone "special" who doesnt do that, all the best to you, but don't ask anyone else to dare put herself in such a position -- which is exactly where we are now -- in oppressed hell.

Bravo! I was dismayed at the success of the book, and particularly appalled by the way Gilbert managed to write about her four months in India without mentioning a word about the people of India. The book seemed like the embodiment of that brand of American over-consumption and self centeredness that brought us to this deep recession. A sad commentary indeed.

Yay! Speak the truth about this nonsense! I think it's especially weird to release this in the middle of the recession. WTF were these people thinking? That we need escapism so badly we'll take this offensive show of othering tourism? Ugh. Great review.

Great review! I can't believe that so many people bought into the hype generated by this stupid book and the stupid movie.

Hey Prairie - This is a spectacular review! I look forward to reading more of your reviews.